A federal grand jury has indicted the CEO and president of Bumble Bee Foods in California this week on charges that he conspired to fix the prices of packaged seafood that was sold in US, said the Department of Justice on Wednesday. And past year, former StarKist senior VP of sales Stephen Hodge also pleaded guilty to the same charges. That follows earlier similar charges against three StarKist tuna executives.
Bumble Bee agreed in May a year ago to plead guilty to one count of price-fixing and to pay a criminal fine of $25 million.
Reuters reported that Lischewski's attorney, John Keker, said he was innocent. "When the facts are known and the truth emerges, Mr. Lischewski will be found not guilty".
"The Antitrust Division is committed to prosecuting senior executives who unjustly profit at the expense of their customers", Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division said in a statement announcing the indictment.
In a separate action, retail giant Walmart filed a civil suit last year claiming that the industry illegally set canned tuna prices over a five-year period.
The indictment claims that Lischewski had agreed to the price fixing in meetings as well as other communications from November of 2010 through December of 2013.
The San Diego-based company also agreed to cooperate with the Antitrust Division's ongoing investigation involving packaged seafood. For Bumble Bee, one of the world's largest seafood companies, with more than 1,000 employees and doing as much as $1 billion in annual sales, a $25 million fine and a single felony count can fade pretty quickly into memory.
The Department of Justice alleges that Lischewski met and communicated with rival seafood companies to keep tuna prices artificially high.
Lischewski isn't the only Bumble Bee executive to be charged in connection with the scheme.